Lessons From Daddy

“No one in this world can love a girl more than her father.” — Michael Ratnadeepak

Me & Daddy at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

As an only child, I have had a close relationship with both of my parents for my entire life, but my dad and I never experienced the relational tension my mom and I did. My dad — or Daddy, as he will always be to me — and I have always had a unique relationship. He introduced me to guns and the outdoors and took me on hunting trips. We would play Call of Duty together on the computer, more often than not my mom frustratingly reminding us to take turns.

When all the other girls I was friends with started having boyfriends and I felt left out (any other “late bloomers” out there?) he reminded me I didn’t need a boy to feel important. When the breakups and other teenage drama inevitably came, he tried his best to console me, even though he wasn’t really sure how to do that — he would always mutter “this isn’t my area of expertise” as he thought through what to say to make me feel better.

He isn’t perfect — no parent is — but he tries his best and does all he can to make sure I am okay. And even though he says he isn’t a great teacher, he’s managed to teach me a few lessons along the way.

Recognize effort. One of the funniest memories I have of our relationship is actually after a breakup with my first long-term boyfriend in high school. I drove, crying, to my dad’s office, not really sure why I was heading there but knowing I just needed someone and he was who I thought of. He stopped his work, turned in his chair, and hugged me, asking what was wrong. I told him, and his response was what any well-meaning father of a teenage daughter would think is good and appropriate: “Aw, honey, there are plenty of fish in the sea.”

This did nothing for fragile teenage me, and I cried harder, claiming no other “fish” would ever be interested in me because I wasn’t whatever other girls were. This poor man clearly had no idea what to do for a self-deprecating, tear-stained, very upset teenage girl. I eventually left him to his work and drove back home — to his house — where I did homework until he came home from work.

When he walked through the door, he called, “I got you something.” From a plastic grocery bag, he pulled out a pint of Haagan-Dazs Carmel Cone ice cream. I stared at it — I don’t like carmel in my ice cream, and vanilla ice cream is not my favorite flavor. But it was abundantly clear he was trying. After all, what upset teenage girl — or any upset female for that matter — doesn’t want to drown her sorrows in her very own pint of ice cream?

“Thank you,” I said, stray tears still making their way from my eyes.

As I’ve grown, this encounter has really said everything about my dad and how he cares for me. He may not have all the right answers, but he tries to give me a positive spin and make me smile. It has also shown me that, often times, we may not really know how to perfectly handle a situation, but we try our best. We need to recognize that the fact the person put forth effort is often the most meaningful thing they could have done.

Running away. There was a period when I was teenager that my mom and I did not get along. I did not want to be near her at all. So, I went to live with my dad for about a month. While he was happy to have me around, he frequently reminded me I couldn’t stay with him just to escape my mom. Even though they had divorced, he never once told me I had every reason to be angry or “sided” with me. Instead, he reminded me that communication is key, and I had to talk to her. Because of him, I eventually got to the point where I felt I could finally talk to her. He could have felt threatened or even upset by that possibility, but he didn’t — he knew the importance of having both of them in my life as positive influences. And to this day he reminds me that running away and avoidance does not solve problems.

Mistakes. We all make them. But they can either weigh us down or we can grow from them. The battle I am currently facing has brought a new level to my relationship with my dad, and we can relate in an even deeper way now. He has given me insight into the mistakes he has made and what he learned from them. He has reminded me that nothing is a mistake if it is what I feel is right. He has shown me people can change.

Forged through simulated war games and hunting, the relationship I have with my dad is probably the most unique dad-daughter relationship I’ve come across. Though these lessons are by no means the only lessons he has taught me, they have been some of the most impactful.

I learn from the best. Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.

Me & Daddy